October 19, 2021

From the Barns: Food for thought

With harvest in full swing, I play herdsman, provide cheap labor and check the bred cows as Carson remains occupied with grain. As a road gawker, I report that many fields of corn in our area are suffering stalk breakage and farmers are rushing to complete their harvest. I can’t help but think that some of those fields sure could use some cattle to clean up that valuable corn that will be on the ground. Soybeans have dried down quickly and moisture is below optimum harvest levels. However, no weather events have interrupted progress.

Weather forecasts for October seem to favor a late frost, so our fingers are crossed that we may be able to take our reeds canary a long way toward winter grazing of the stockpiled fescue. Cows are not liking the reeds already, even though the manure shows protein levels to be quite good. When it frosts heavily, they will be very much less happy.

We do not have corn residue to graze this year with all soybeans planted, so the chasm between reeds and winter stockpile may be more than we are accustomed to. There is a store of round bales in the cattle shed, so the girls will eat well, regardless of the circumstances. It just goes against our doctrine to feed that expensive harvested feed so early.

The last meeting of the Western Illinois Grazing Group was held at the Cassidy Farms near Table Grove, with our hosts Jim and Cindy Cassidy. They were nearly complete with an Environmental Quality Incentives Program project. Our tour included views of newly formed paddocks, new access lanes, new fencing, new water lines and waterers and great potential for more intensive and productive grazing as they go forward.

The evening was well attended and Cindy provided food afterward, which was a real treat and not expected. Many stayed for conversation until well after dark. This year’s meetings have been well attended from as far away as 100 miles from each of the four directions. It gives me incentive to continue next summer. Email if you would like to be added to our contact lists: tjtror@mtcnow.net.

We still need to convert many cattle farmers who graze cattle in a conventional manner and lose out on the tremendous benefits of a rotational system. I drive by many pastures right now that are absolutely destroyed by a summer of conventional grazing and overgrazed to the point of destruction, not to mention the condition of the cattle grazing there or the expensive supplementation found in one corner. Very sad, but true!

Tuesday, Sept. 28, was spent hosting two beef nutrition classes from Western Illinois University. Dr. Keela Trennepohl brought 42 students in two groups for sessions with me on management intensive rotational grazing. I relish these chances to fill young people up with some knowledge and get them to thinking unconventionally about grazing and handling cattle.

After I filled them with basics and had them solve some grazing math problems, we toured parts of our operation and viewed differences in grass, recovery growth, use of temporary fencing to improve grazing management, watering systems, fencing and manure pats to check for protein levels using the Texas A&M Photo Guide. Working with students like that is always an uplifting experience.

The question always is, when it comes to large spending bills and with a Congress dominated by urban members, will rural America receive a fair share? Can we maintain a system of fair succession for our family farms that we have worked our whole lives to develop and have for the next generation? Stay safe and sane and enjoy October!

Trevor Toland

Trevor Toland

Macomb, Ill.